Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday pledged to protect the nation's maritime interests amid water disputes with its neighboring countries.

China's top leader made this statement while chairing a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee to discuss a roadmap to becoming a maritime power.

"We love peace and will remain on a path of peaceful development, but that doesn't mean giving up our rights, especially involving the nation's core interests," said Xi Jinping, adding Beijing will never give up its sovereign claim for economic development.

Yang Baoyun, an expert on Southeast Asian Studies at Peking University, told the media in China that Xi's speech showed that Beijing will maintain steady development of its neighboring areas while protecting its maritime interests.

"It will be tough for China, but we are making all efforts," said Yang Baoyun.

The water disputes in South China Sea and East China Sea have recently escalated with all the regional countries upgrading their military strength in the region.

Beijing is trying to use its military and economic power to force the neighboring countries to adhere to its map of the South China Sea in recent months.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week visited Philippines to meet with President Benigno S. Aquino and the two leaders discussed the water disputes over the South China Sea and East China Sea that both the countries face with China.

Wrapping his six-day trip to India and Singapore, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last Saturday said that Washington is committed to pushing Beijing to engage in negotiations with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct for South China Sea, which is a "major, major, major highway of commerce."

  The U.S. vice president said Washington was "doing everything to encourage that to be done, but it has to be done."

The move came after China agreed to meet with the 10-member Southeast Asian nations group this fall to discuss ways to set up rules to avoid conflict over the China waters.